Belmont Abbey senior forward McKenzie Owen tied her career-high with 30 points while adding nine rebounds, five steals, three blocked shots and an assist as the Crusaders women's basketball team used a strong second half to defeat North Greenville 81-71 this evening inside the Wheeler Center. The Abbey improves to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in Conference Carolinas, while North Greenville drops to 3-7 overall and 2-2 in the league.
North Greenville led for the entire first half as it opened the game on a 14-4 run through the first 5:13. Belmont Abbey stayed close, however, after absorbing the early North Greenville flurry, as it closed the half on a 13-5 run in the final 4:45, punctuated by a Caitlyn Ranson three pointer with 56 seconds left, to slice the North Greenville lead to just 38-37 at the break.
Belmont Abbey began the second half the way in closed the first, as Owen, who scored 15 points in each half, converted 7-12 in the final 20 minutes to spur the Crusaders charge.
Belmont Abbey scored the first six points of the half as part of a 17-8 run in the first six minutes to move ahead for good.
After North Greenville cut the lead down to just one at 54-53 with 9:31 to go, the Crusaders used a 12-4 surge that was engineered by Owen and Briana Grier and capped off by a Ranson jumper that extended the edge to 66-57 with 6:16 to play.
North Greenville started to foul with 1:44 to play and the Abbey ahead 72-65, and Morgan Midkiff netted two free throws, followed by two more from Ranson with 1:05 left that stretched the lead to ten.
The visitors did not go away quietly as a 5-0 North Greenville burst with 48 seconds left cut the lead to five, but Belmont Abbey drained five out of eight from the line in the final 46 seconds, the last two by Ranson, to seal the Abbey's fourth-straight Conference Carolinas victory.
All five Crusader starters scored at least 11 points. Owen previously scored 30 points in last season's 93-82 home win over Erskine on January 30. Tonight, she scored 30 on 14-22 shooting from the field. She added nine rebounds, five rebounds, three blocks and one assist.
Grier, in her first career start, notched career-highs with 11 points, seven assists and three steals. Ranson scored 18 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Midkiff and Tajanna Brown both netted 11. Brown grabbed eight rebounds and collected four steals, while Midkiff handed out six assists and had two steals.
Belmont Abbey shot 49 percent from the field, including a 56 percent effort in the second half as it outscored North Greenville 44-33 in the final 20 minutes.
Tonight's game ended a four game homestand for the Crusaders, which will now embark on a four game road swing, starting with Wednesday afternoon's contest at Lenoir-Rhyne. Tipoff is set for 4:00 p.m. from Shuford Gymnasium.